Missing Plane: Was Vladimir Putin Involved in Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Disappearance?

March 5, 2015 Updated: March 6, 2015

A science journalist who has spoken frequently on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has theorized that one of the most powerful people in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin, was involved.

It’s been nearly a year since the plane disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board, and there has been no sign of the missing Boeing 777–not even a piece of debris. The Australian government has spent tens of millions of dollars in searching for the plane hundreds of miles off the coast of Western Australia but to no avail.

Wise, who is one of CNN’s top commentators on missing Flight 370, made a shocking claim that Putin ordered the hijacking of the plane. He said Putin may have wanted to steal the plane to go after the West–possibly because the U.S. placed sanctions on Russia one day before the plane went missing.

“Maybe what he was really after were the secrets of one of the plane’s passengers. Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere some day, packed with explosives. There’s no way to know,” Wise wrote in a New York magazine piece several days ago.

He then asks: “Why, exactly, would Putin want to steal a Malaysian passenger plane? I had no idea. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in the world.”

Wise then speculates Putin may have been after secrets on one of the plane’s passengers or in the cargo.

“Maybe there was something strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives,” he said. “There’s no way to know. That’s the thing about MH370 theory-making: It’s hard to come up with a plausible motive for an act that has no apparent beneficiaries.”

Wise released some of his theories in his book, “The Plane That Wasn’t There,” which came out last month.

After Flight 370 disappeared, investigators have said the aircraft probably traveled north or south along an arc, which is based on electronic “pings” between the plane and a satellite. The “burst frequency offset” of the ping signals’ wavelengths led them to think the plane took the southern arc.

Wise, however, said the data could have been manipulated by hijackers on board the plane. 

“Once I threw out the troublesome [burst frequency offset] data, all the inexplicable coincidences and mismatched data went away,” he said in the New York magazine piece. “The answer became wonderfully simple. The plane must have gone north.”

Wise then said the plane may have traveled to the Yubileyniy airstrip in the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. “Baikonur is leased from Kazakhstan by Russia. A long runway there called Yubileyniy was built for a Russian version of the Space Shuttle. If the final Inmarsat ping rang at the start of MH370’s descent, it would have set up nicely for an approach to Yubileyniy’s runway 24,” he wrote.

“Whether the plane went to Baikonur or elsewhere in Kazakhstan, my suspicion fell on Russia. With technically advanced satellite, avionics, and aircraft-manufacturing industries, Russia was a paranoid fantasist’s dream,” he added.